Virginia Shanahan, writing at MacsMind, has a longer memory than most of us, and cites a NY Times article from 2003 recalling that the Bush administration actually foresaw problems, and tried reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but his efforts were blocked. By whom? The same democrats who now possess a Congressional majority. With current Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Massachusetts’ own Barney Frank playing a leading role.
I doubt many of the readers recall this article from the New York Times five years ago.
The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.
Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry.
The new agency would have the authority, which now rests with Congress, to set one of the two capital-reserve requirements for the companies. It would exercise authority over any new lines of business. And it would determine whether the two are adequately managing the risks of their ballooning portfolios.
The plan is an acknowledgment by the administration that oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac â€” which together have issued more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding debt â€” is broken. A report by outside investigators in July concluded that Freddie Mac manipulated its accounting to mislead investors, and critics have said Fannie Mae does not adequately hedge against rising interest rates.
We can see now that the Bush administration had accurately diagnosed the problem in the lending market and had a plan to address it. Reluctantly Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac supported the plan. However, Democrats objected.
Among the groups denouncing the proposal today were the National Association of Home Builders and Congressional Democrats who fear that tighter regulation of the companies could sharply reduce their commitment to financing low-income and affordable housing.
â€These two entities â€” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac â€” are not facing any kind of financial crisis,â€ said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. â€The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.â€
Representative Melvin L. Watt, Democrat of North Carolina, agreed.
â€I donâ€™t see much other than a shell game going on here, moving something from one agency to another and in the process weakening the bargaining power of poorer families and their ability to get affordable housing,â€ Mr. Watt said.